- Created: Thursday, 13 June 2013 11:52
- Written by Bob Shepherd
On 16 May the Israeli government announced it would legalise four settlement outposts on the West Bank. These settlements were constructed unofficially and, in 2003, the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised to demolish them as part of the ‘Road Map for Peace’. The reality of an Israeli government ‘promise’ can be seen in this little episode: pledge to do something, don’t do it for ten years and then do the reverse. The announcement followed on from the government’s approval for around 300 new housing units in the Beit El settlement just outside Ramallah, increasing the size of that settlement by around a third.
These Israeli actions are not just a slight to US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, but a major problem for imperialism’s plans in the Middle East. Since Obama’s visit to Israel in March, Kerry has been to and fro trying to get new peace talks going between Palestinian President Abbas and Israel. As Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, ‘I do believe you have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Over the past two years they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank that few would have imagined a decade ago’. For this relationship to continue, Israel had to ‘recognise that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace’.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot participate in any new peace talks unless there is at least a perception that settlement expansion has been halted. Since Obama’s visit, Fayyad has quit as Prime Minister but it seemed an unofficial deal was in place as Netanyahu had not approved any new settlement plans until these two announcements. Combined with Israel’s bombing of Syria, the decision adds to the growing destabilisation of the region.
Using as an excuse the stabbing to death of a settler in the West Bank, since 30 April Jewish settlers have engaged in a wave of violent racist attacks on the Palestinian population, safe in the knowledge that the Israeli army will protect them.
On 8 May, when the Zionists celebrate the occupation of the whole of Jerusalem in 1967, fascist settlers marched through the city chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and ‘Jerusalem is ours’. Some wore T-shirts displaying the demolition of the Dome on the Rock Mosque, one of Islam’s most important religious sites. They attacked Palestinian shops and called for the expulsion of all Arabs and Palestinians from the city. In the days before, the Israeli police allowed large groups of fascist settlers to force their way into the Al Aqsa compound, which contains the Dome on the Rock, to shout racist abuse at Muslim worshippers. Police attacked a Palestinian counter-protest with pepper spray and arrested over 20 people, including journalists. On 20 May Israel banned a United Nations commission from visiting Jerusalem to investigate alleged violations of religious freedom for both Christians and Muslims.
Racist settlers have been particularly active around Nablus. On 11 May some 50 settlers marched into the village of Burin after setting fire to the village’s wheat fields. When confronted by local Palestinians, the Israeli army arrived on the scene and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the villagers. Two days later, settlers destroyed fruit saplings, slashed tyres, vandalised and desecrated graves and sprayed racist graffiti in the village of Sawiya. There was another attempt to set fire to wheat fields on 20 May around the villages of Immatin and Fara’ta. Israeli occupation forces prevented Palestinian villagers from dowsing the flames. Similar attacks have taken place in the villages around Hebron/Al Khalil with crops set alight and olive trees uprooted.
Israel is also attempting to demolish eight villages south of Nablus which it has declared ‘illegal’. Elders in these villages have title deeds which date back to the Ottoman Empire but which are being dismissed by Israel. On 21 May Israel demolished four Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, making around 30 people homeless. Israel claims the homes had been built without any permit. According to the UN, 33% of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack an Israeli building permit, placing 93,100 people at risk of being made homeless. The Zionists refuse 95% of all Palestinian applications for building permits in East Jerusalem.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013